Worthing Pride: popular pub owners were one of Sussex’s first gay married couples

Aaron Burns and John Azzopardi of Gin and Bear it
Aaron Burns and John Azzopardi of Gin and Bear it

With Worthing Pride around the corner, people from our LGBT+ community have come forward to tell their stories.

Two of them are John Azzopardi and Aaron Burns, the manager and landlord of the Brooksteed Alehouse in South Farm Road, Worthing.

Brooksteed Alehouse Manager John Azzopardi, left and Tom Flint, a member of the bar team.  Photo by Derek Martin Photography

Brooksteed Alehouse Manager John Azzopardi, left and Tom Flint, a member of the bar team. Photo by Derek Martin Photography

The pair met at a bus stop in Bath and had one of the most long-distance relationships possible, given that John lived in Melbourne, Australia.

Aaron, 42, then popped the question when visiting him, getting a civil partnership in November 2017 and becoming among the first gay couples in Sussex to get married the day the law changed on December 10, 2014, at Brighton Town Hall.

Aaron, from Hove, said: “I always felt that civil partnerships were a bit of a legal fudge; it is important marriage equality is open to all.

“But when we booked it, we didn’t know we were going to be the first ones.”

The landlord, who also is the temporary accomodation manager for Brighton and Hove City Council, said they have always found Worthing to be very accepting; more so than Brighton, where the couple have encountered name calling when showing affection in public in the past.

He said: “It can happen anywhere, which is why we still have to do these mental risk assessments before we show affection to our partners in public. Fortunately, I’m quite British; I rarely show affection.”

John, 43, did a postal vote in the Australian gay marriage referendum in 2017, where 61.6 per cent said yes to gay marriage. He said: “I wanted my friends and family to have the same rights I had. It was a lot of the reason why we moved here.

“Australia needs to live up to this reputation they have of being easygoing and liberal; when you tell people how backward it is, they are always shocked.”

To celebrate Worthing Pride, the Brooksteed Alehouse will be hosting a pre-pride event on Friday, with singer Miss Disney performing, a tap takeover by London Pride supporters the Deviant & Dandy brewery, and ice cream from Pinks Vintage Ice Cream. Click here for a comprehensive guide to Worthing Pride.

John said: “It is wonderful, and a great step forward for Worthing.”

To read about Scott from Lancing’s experience of being transgender, click here.

Kai from Tarring, who is pansexual and non-binary, has also shared their life story. Click here to read more.